Lobbying for Dummies

lobby4If you missed the Alliance for a Clean Texas lobby day last week, you missed out on a great opportunity for some face time with your representatives and their staff members. But that doesn’t mean that your chance to catch your legislator’s attention has passed. Here’s some advice from our lobby day training session for next time:

If you’re meeting your representative in person, dress nicely. It may be square and an outdated standard, but your rep is more likely to take you seriously in a collared shirt than that old Metallica tee. Stinks, but hey – that’s politics. Niceties go far.

Speaking of niceties, Be Respectful. Is it that surprising that you’re more likely to get a positive response from your rep if you are polite than if you enter the room in attack mode? Regardless of your legislator’s stance on the issues, they were, in fact, democratically elected and for that at least deserve some respect (at the very least, try not to cuss them out). Plus, you know the phrase… you catch more bees with honey.

It is also a good idea to research your rep a bit before you make an appointment or call. How have they voted on your issues in the past? If they helped pass a good bill last session, take the opportunity to thank them for it. Try to start your conversation off on a positive note.

If you can, also try to make a connection with your rep or their staffer, whoever you end up talking to. They’re more likely to remember you and your input if you make it personal. And listen. Your contact may have some interesting information to tell you, such as bills they’ve already filed, policies they support, issues they are also interested in, etc.

Once you get talking, don’t feel like you have to sound like a policy expert. There’s no need to get too wonky in these meetings – just say your piece in your own words. Numbers and specifics may be convincing at times, but narratives stick with a person. Just pick your issue, tell your contact why it is important to you, and tell them what you want from them. This is the most important part of your meeting – your ask. Be prepared with something specific that you want this person do to for you – and preferably, make it reasonable, like voting for or against a bill. Make the ask something this person has within their power to do.

After your meeting, be sure to follow up. If you see a news article in your home paper that relates to your issue, clip it out and send it in to them — especially if the article quotes Smitty 😉 Watch for votes on your issue (we’ll do our best to keep you in the know!), and remind your representative of how you would like them to vote. Be persistent! Provide your legislators with the information they need to represent you.